Exfoliate or Not to Exfoliate!
Before we begin talking about how to exfoliate, let’s talk about why, and how often you should exfoliate your skin. As a licensed esthetician, I get asked this often with clients and also friends. I find there is no perfect answer, mainly because it all depends on your skin. And as I talk about these exfoliating gloves, they are a great way to exfoliate your body, but I use a whole different group of products for my face. I have very oily skin, I have dealt with acne all my life. Let’s get going!
Why do we Exfoliate?
You might not even know it, but your body is constantly producing new skin cells. That, combined with environmental factors and the use of makeup, can be damaging to the skin. If you don’t exfoliate, your pores can accumulate dirt and other oils, causing breakouts. This is not just limited to your face, this can happen in other areas of your body as well, specifically your chest or back, as well as your upper arms and legs. Exfoliation helps slough off dead skin cells, remove dirt and keep pores looking smaller.
Should you exfoliate everyday?
No. While your skin does need to be tended to regularly, exfoliating more than necessary can actually cause skin to become rough, dry and patchy. It actually depends more on the type of skin and the amount of oil you produce. To exfoliate properly, you need to be aware of your skin and what it needs. For your body, I would use exfoliating gloves. They allow you to have more control and they are perfect in a shower or bath.
Figure out your skin type before you exfoliate
I have found that there are 4 main types of skin. We have oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin and then there is normal sort of combination skin. None are perfect or better than the other, we are what we are! Sometimes I hate my oily skin, but then I see what other women deal with, when having dry skin and I find that it is just different problems, not better or worse. So let’s break these down a bit more.
- Oily Skin – Most people think only teenagers have oily skin. Wrong! Women of all ages can experience it. I know I have! As a general rule of thumb, the oilier your skin, the more often you can exfoliate. Having oily skin makes it hard for dead skin cells to be removed.
- Sensitive Skin – This one is pretty self explanatory. When you have sensitive skin, you are going to tend to be careful when preparing to exfoliate. You may end up using exfoliating gloves only very, very lightly, or find that you should only use a warm clean washcloth and that does the trick. Listening to your body is the key.
- Dry Skin – Many people believe that exfoliating may not work with dry skin. This is not the case. In fact, women with dry skin actually get an abnormal buildup of skin cells, preventing normal exfoliation and normal moisture retention. Exfoliating helps the dead skin cells shed at a more normal rate, making room for new skin cells and hydrating the skin. If you’re a woman who has dry skin, you could use exfoliating gloves twice a week for your body. But listen to your body. My husband, yes I make my husband exfoliate, tries to use the exfoliating gloves twice a week and it has worked well for his dry skin.
- Normal or Combination Skin – Women who have normal or combination skin often have a T-zone that is oily and cheeks that are dry. These women also tend to have large pores, especially on the nose, and they experience occasional breakouts. If this sounds like you, then a chemical peel that contains alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids is the right thing for you. Such peels are extremely effective in eliminating excess oil through the T-zone area. How often you should use such peels varies by product, so make sure to always follow the directions. Women with normal skin can also use exfoliants like scrubs up to three times each week.
How I Exfoliate and My Recommendations For your Face
Here’s what I do with my skin type when exfoliating. Twice a week, I use a face polish or scrub to get all the dead skin cells off and help my skin look and feel smooth so my makeup goes on nicely, hence exfoliate. Laura Mercier Face Polish is my favorite but there are so many good brands. The one I discourage is the St. Ives Apricot Scrub, it has uneven sharp apricot kernels that can create tiny incisions in the skin, allowing bacteria to get in. It is overall a little rough for the face. I also love Philosophy’s Micro-delivery Peel for a once a week smoothing. It feels so amazing and pumps vitamin C into your skin as well so you are left with a bright, smooth complexion for the week.
Being an esthetician, I also know the value of what I like to call “lunchtime” peels. What these are are lactic, glycolic, or citric acid peels that you could literally get done on your lunch break and still look halfway normal returning to work. I recommend finding an esthetician near you who uses PCA products. They are my favorite and the entire brand of home care and clinical line was designed by a dermatologist and esthetician so you’re getting the best of both worlds.
These types of peels are best done in a series. I recommend to my clients to do 3-5 in the Spring and 3-5 in the Fall. Depending on your skin type you would get one every 3-4 weeks during your series. Summer is never a good time to do any peels since we are always in the sunlight whether we want to be or not. You don’t want to damage the improvements you’re trying to make to your skin, by forgetting your hat or extra sunscreen while at the park, or out and about, on accident. This can actually cause hyperpigmentation as your skin heals from a peel, all the while you are trying to decrease any unwanted pigment from acne scars or sun damage. Deeper exfoliation from a peel helps rid the skin of any unwanted pre-cancerous cells, pigment, oils, acne pigment scars, overall sebum/oil buildup. It helps so much with preserving the youthful texture and radiance.
HOW I EXFOLIATE AND MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR Body
For the body, the reason I like the exfoliating gloves, is because you can wash them easier than a loofah and they last for a long time. You adjust the pressure you apply by feeling your touch and can use soap or your favorite shower gel. Sugar and salt scrubs work well, too, but can gunk up your shower and honestly, I just have never seen them work quite as well. If you like to get spray tans, the best practice is to exfoliate your face and body 1-3 days before you go in for your appointment. You can wait until the morning of, but if you get a few good light scrubs in prior, your skin will accept the tan well. All the places you get really dry will have had a chance to soften quite a bit, which really makes the spray tan last a day or two longer. For example, elbows, edges of the feet, knees and legs. Make sure to always hydrate with your favorite lotion after you’ve exfoliated in the shower while your skin is still warm and soft. Your product will penetrate deeper and you’ll skin will glow! Make sure not to put lotions on before a spray tan appointment though because you’ll want the tan solution to be able to absorb evenly into your skin.
I hope this helps as you begin or continue to exfoliate your skin. I still get acne, I still have issues, I’m no where perfect. But I also see the lasting affects of exfoliating on a normal basis. I want my skin to look good when I’m 70 not just right now! To keep it up, we must continually exfoliate and be ever so kind to our skin!